Why model San Marco on the Holy Apostles?


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
I realize that this may be an unanswerable question, but I'm open to anyone's guesses. Eastern Christendom had a number of remarkable churches that people from Venice may have been familiar with, and Constantinople had more than its fair share - Hagia Sophia, the Nea, Hagia Eirene, and the Virgin of Pharos all stand out. Holy Apostles was obviously big, had strong imperial associations through Justinian's foundation and imperial burials, and was located on the highest point in the city. But it was not in the imperial core of the city, and was not especially associated with the palace, nor any notable relics. Do we know anything about why the Venetians chose to model San Marco on Holy Apostles?
Jan 2016
Victoria, Canada
I would guess a Holy Apostles-type Church was simply the largest format Venice could commission. It's a lot easier to build wide than tall, and on the budget of a merchant republic that layout gives you more bang for your buck in terms of grandeur than a classical basilica, Greek-cross, or Hagia Sophia/Eirene. The 5 smaller domes also mitigate the impact of a potential collapse, as indeed happened to the dome of the Hagia Sophia mere decades after its completion, which a state as small as Venice couldn't afford to deal with otherwise -- this risk is particularly relevant given the surprising amount of irregularities in some of the domes of the building. The Holy Apostles was of course quite prestigious in its own right as a dominating monument of its neighborhood and burial place of emperors, but the factors outlined above would explain why it was chosen over any other model.

A dome of San Marco:


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